We talk so much about the beautiful animal and we write about it, but why do we go on about this animal when we have found or seen it? Personally I have a very soft spot for this animal. It is known as one of the most dangerous predators to come across on foot in Africa, but for this animal it’s all just survival instinct.

A mother would give birth to 1 – 3 cubs; she would do everything to take care of these babies and to protect the cubs. She cannot stay with her cubs all the time because she has to hunt to be able to provide nutritious milk for the young. During the hunting sessions anything can happen. Lions or hyenas can attack the cubs, maybe even cheetah. These animals are all competing for territory and food.

I have seen a terrified female leopard in a tree, looking at one of her cubs petrified in another and then sadly she looked down upon another little cub lying without any movement after the lions went through the territory. Lions live in prides and there is high level of social behavior, unlike the leopard which is a solitary animal. After two years maybe only one cub survives all the threats of nature and this due to very hard work and commitment from the mother.

The mother prepares this youngster how to hunt, run away and to defend itself when needed. They have a good time together while playing and there is a special bond between them until the inevitable moment – the moment when the mother realizes that she is no longer needed to protect the young, it is time for this youngster to move on and find his/her own territory and his/her own life. This bond will then be broken harshly and this is truly a sad moment.

The mother will then be alone hoping to mate again with a male just to go through the same experiences. However many cubs they lose during their lifetime, they never give up; they always move forward; they always give everything they’ve got.

I do have a soft spot for this predator, because it has a lonely life although sometimes we would be sad if a leopard catches an impala in a herd of 30 or 40 animals, she has to take car of her cubs because they are all that she has.

Janco du Plessis – Kapama River Lodge

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